Tag: Basque (page 1 of 29)

June 23, 1448: The Burning of Arrasate-Mondragón

On June 23, 1448 an infamous conflict–the Burning of Arradsate-Mondragón–took place in Gipuzkoa. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Basque Country was the setting for what came to be known as the factional struggles or wars. In the words of Gregorio Monreal Zia, in The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452) (p. 36):

Among the Basques, as elsewhere in Europe, the Late Middle Ages witnessed violent social confrontations. In the Basque case, initially, it was a conflict between the leaders of lineages (the great traditional lineages–not unlike Scottish clans–were primarily based in the rural districts) and subsequently a rural aristocracy with the inhabitants of the recently-founded urban nuclei or villas.

The two main factions were the Gamboinos (incorporating the families Gamboa, Guevara, Balda, Olaso, Abendaño, Salazar, Ayala, Leguizamones, and allies) and the Oñacinos (made up of the families Oñaz, Mendoza, Lazcano, Mújica, Butrón, Calleja, Zurbarán, and allies).

Like other areas of the Basque Country the town of Arrasate-Mondragón was divided across these factional lines with the Bañez family part of the Gamboinos and the Guraia family belonging to the Oñacinos. In the mid-fifteenth century the town was, in fact, clearly divided between these two factions, with two mayors and two governing councils. On June 23, 1448, in an attempt to take control of the whole town, the Bañez family (with the help of forces loyal to the jauntxo or squire of nearby Oñati) invaded the Guraia neighborhood. Th Guraia family immediately enlisted its own support from Bizkaian allies and managed to repel the attack.  But the incident did not end there. The Oñacinos regrouped and tried once more. However, seeing the impossibility of their objective they instead decided to raze the town to the ground, with the ensuing fire leaving just two houses standing.

The ruling monarch at the time, Juan II of Castile and León, was so incensed by these events that he exiled those behind the plan, eventually forcing the families to sign a peace treaty.

*Image: La pacificación de los bandos en el banco de Vizcaya de la Plaza de España de Sevilla, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

June 14, 1959: Famous Basque woodchopper Latasa achieves major feat

Ramon Latasa Elizondo (1930-1991)

On June 14, 1959, in Lekeitio, Bizkaia, the renowned Basque aizkolari (woodchopper) Ramon Latasa achieved one of his most memorable feats: that day, on the basis of major betting on the outcome, he cut through the trunk of a Eucalyptus tree with a girth of just under 17 feet (!) within 4 hours; specifically, in 3 hours and 17 minutes, and with 5,259 ax blows.

 

Ramon Latasa Elizondo was born on the Aguria baserri in Sunbilla, Nafarroa, in 1930 into a poor family. At age 17 he began working in the logging industry, gaining special fame among his coworkers for his woodchopping prowess. His most famous feat took place on April 26, 1959, when he won a legendary challenge in competition with Luxia (Juan Jose Narbaiza Ibarbia), from Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa.  In this “challenge of the century” (as it was termed at the time), the humble woodchopper from Sunbilla finished a whopping 5 minutes before his rival, leaving onlookers stunned at the feat.  Latasa continued taking part in thee challenges through the 1960s and even into the 1970s, retiring at age 47. Remembered by many as the greatest aizkolari of all time, he died in 1991.

New exhibition celebrates Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 visit to the Basque Country

We’ve already discussed in a previous post how a lot of Hollywood royalty, like Charlie Chaplin for example, spent time in the Basque Country (and we’ve still to tell the tale of Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn’s time there…but for that, watch this space!). Now it has come to our attention that the Didam art gallery in Baiona recently premiered an exhibition (running through September 3) celebrating Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 visit to promote the movie Vertigo at the Donostia-San Sebastián international film festival that year.

Hitchcock in the Basque Country, from the Bayonne website.

After arriving at Biarritz airport, “Hitch” and his wife, Alma Reville, spent four and a half days taking in the sights of Donostia and Pasai Donibane in Hegoalde (dining in the famous Camara restaurant in the latter) as well as Hendaia, Biarritz, and Baiona in Iparralde, all accompanied, perhaps not unsurprisingly given that this was a promotional visit, by numerous (and prolific) photographers. The exhibition curator, photographer Pedro Usabiaga, researched the project for five years, checking out different archives and sources. Some of the photos, such as Hitchcock posing in the pulpit of Baiona Cathedral, reveal a playful side to the master of suspense but would most likely have been banned from appearing in any publication in Franco’s Spain at the time.

Read the exhibition program (and see some of the pictures) here.

See a report on the exhibition (in French) in Sud-Ouest here.

Premiere of Aberne, a short movie about women in pelota, on Sunday

Sunday will see the premiere of the movie Aberne, a short film that was the result of a Master’s thesis by Irati Santiago, from Villabona (Gipuzkoa), at Columbia College Chicago. It was produced by Santiago and written and directed by Emma Johnson. From the movie website:  “Aberne tells the story of a young, Basque woman struggling to be accepted amongst external societal pressures in a region where friends, family and co-workers all come together under one sport, pelota. Aberne seeks the opportunity to break free from the culture’s limitation and prove herself worthy of not only playing pelota, but of the general public’s respect.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165637744″>Aberne Interview H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

The film was shot in the Tolosa district of Gipuzkoa, in Basque, and with English subtitles.  It tells the story of a young woman who aspires to be a professional pelotari or Basque handball player in the face of much resistance, including on the part of her mother, who attempts to convince her to stick to the family bread-making business.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165733435″>Aberne Teaser English H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

See a report on the movie premiere by the Noticias de Gipuzkoa (in Spanish) here.

Check out Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa, which seeks to contextualize this sport within Basque culture more generally.

May 31, 1910: Premiere of opera Mirentxu

On May 31, 1910 the Basque-themed opera Mirentxu, with music by Jesús Guridi and libretto by Alredo Echave, premiered in the Teatro Campos Elíseos in Bilbao. It actually premiered as a zarzuela, but was transfomred into an opera in two acts and an epilogue in 1912.

It’s an intense Romantic tale of a love triangle involving three principal characters, Mirentxu,  Raimundo, and Presen,  with Mirentxu ultimately representing the tragic heroine of the piece.

See Natalie Morel Botrora, “Mirentxu, idylle lyrique basque en deux actes” (in French).

May 22, 1938: The San Cristóbal Prison Break

On May 22, 1938, some 792 prisoners escaped from Fort San Cristóbal, on Mount Ezkaba, about 2.5 miles outside Pamplona-Iruñea, in what is estimated to be one of the numerically biggest prison breaks in history.  These inmates were prisoners of war who had been detained by Franco’s rebel forces during the Spanish Civil War. There were 2,487 inmates in total in 1938, most of them Republican sympathizers arrested during the war. Condition were brutal, with prisoners suffering torture, starvation, and death.

The escape was planned by around 30 inmates, who used Esperanto to communicate among each other. It started during dinner, when the guards were most dispersed, and different groups of prisoners managed to overpower them within a half hour. Thereafter, they began their escape, but, unbeknownst to them, a soldier had witnessed the events and rushed to Pamplona-Iruñea to inform the authorities there. Ultimately, it was not so difficult to capture the escapees. They were poorly dressed, malnourished, and without any specific plan beyond just breaking out of Fort San Cristóbal. Within a matter of days, of the 795 who originally escaped, 585 were captured, 207 died or were killed, and just 3 made it to the French border and safety. Of those recaptured, 14 were sentenced to death after being singled out as ringleaders.

*Image: Monument to those who escaped from Fort San Cristóbal on the southern slope of Mount Ezkaba. Photo by Jorab, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

May 17, 1837: The Battle of Irun

On May 14, 1837, around 20,000 Liberal troops under the command of General Sir George de Lacy Evans, head of the British Legion that was assisting the forces of Isabella II during the First Carlist War, rendezvoused in Donostia-San Sebastián before setting out with the aim of taking the corridor of towns toward the French border. Taking Hernani swiftly, their Carlist opponents retreated to the border town of Irun, the ultimate goal for the Liberals. Around 12,000 of the original 20,000 took part in the assault on Irun (including 5,000 soldiers of the British Legion). The Carlists, meanwhile, were hopelessly outnumbered, with many of their number having been committed elsewhere to the so-called Royal Expedition, an attempt to attack Madrid directly and try and wrest control of the throne away from Isabella II. On May 16, the British forces began bombarding Irun and the following day, May 17, they attacked the city. The Carlist forces there, though as mentioned much less in number, defended their position stoically. Following this desperate resistance by the Carlists, though, the Liberals triumphed, pillaging Irun and carrying out widespread reprisals against their enemy. Despite efforts by de Lacy Evans to precvent such reprisals, British troops, too, took part in the pots-battle retaliations, probably due to having been humiliated by Carlist forces at the Battle of Oriamendi on March 16 that same year.  The following day Hondarribia, too, fell to the Liberal forces, who were ultimately successful in their attempt to seal the corridor to the French border.

*Image: Attack on the Behobia Gate, Irun, by the British Auxiliary Legion, during the Battle of Irun. From Twelve Views in the Basque Provinces illustrating several of the actions in which the British Legion was engaged with Carlist Troops, by Thomas Lyde Hornbrook. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Four takes on Basque identity from a food perspective

Check out a lovely article on Basque food and tradition in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country from the gourmet food, wine, and travel magazine Saveur, in its continual quest to “savor a world of authentic cuisine.” Now we could get all highfalutin and scholarly about the nature of authenticity in culture as a whole, but seeing as though this is meant to be a fun blog and a downright celebration of all things Basque… we won’t! Yay!! In the article, author Jane Sigal visits a charcutier, a pepper grower, a baker, and a cheese maker in Iparralde to see how the food they make represents the place in which they live. In  a beautiful philosophical turn, cheese maker Raphaël Eliceche comments that, “My cheese is for sale … Not the Pays Basque.”

Check out the full article here.

*Image: Official seal of Bayonne Ham. Photo  by Émile Pujolle, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thousands gather for Herri Urrats 2017

This past Sunday thousands of people gathered together in the sun to celebrate the annual Herri Urrats (A People’s Step) festival in the Senpere lake area in Lapurdi. This is a fundraising event for Basque-language education initiatives in the Northern Basque Country. And this year, specifically, all the money raised will go toward the expansion of the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa (high school), in Baiona, to incorporate a vocational or trade school, thereby offering full technical and vocational training in Basque for the first time in Iparralde. That’s not all, though, as part of an ambitious wider plan, the new site will also incorporate a barnetegi (that is, boarding facilities for adult learners of Basque) and major new sports installations. Exciting times ahead for the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa!

So that’s the serious side to all this, but Herri Urats is really a fun day out for all the family, a meeting place for old friends, and an opportunity to celebrate the Basque language. And when the sun shines, which is does occasionally, there are few better places to be! See some great pictures from the day here.

May 6, 1542: Francis Xavier arrives in Goa

On May 6, 1542, Francis Xavier, the first Jesuit missionary, arrived in Goa as part of a Portuguese mission to spread the faith in its new territories in the East Indies.  His primary goal was to  restore Christianity among European settlers in Goa, which had been a Portuguese possession for some thirty years. But ultimately, he extended his mission in attempts to convert the local population as well.

A Japanese depiction of Francis Xavier, dated to the 17th century. From the Kobe City Museum collection. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Francis Xavier–Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta–was born in Xabier (Javier) in the Kingdom of Navarre in 1506. The son of the seneschal (steward) of Xabier Castle and a high-ranking official at the royal court, he had a privileged upbringing. But ruin befell the family after the conquest of Navarre by Castile in 1512. Remaining loyal to an independent Navarre, his older brothers were involved in a failed plot to oust the Castilians. In retribution, the family lands were confiscated, the outer wall, gates, and two towers of the family castle destroyed, and its moat filled in.  Too young to participate in these events, Francis was sent to Paris to study. There he encountered Ignatius of Loyola and ultimately the two of them, along with five others, would take the famous vows of poverty and chastity as well as loyalty to the Pope at Montmartre, Paris in 1534 (the forerunner act to the establishment of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit order). Francis was ultimately ordained in 1537 and, following a request in 1540 by King John of Portugal for Christian missionaries to go to Asia, was chosen by Loyola to undertake the task.

Xabier Castle in Navarre. Photo by Jsanchezes, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He enjoyed mixed fortunes in his quest.  Starting in Goa and Portuguese India more broadly, he subsequently traveled further east, evangelizing in Malacca, the Maluku Islands, and Japan. Returning to Malacca and Goa in late 1551 and early 1552, he then set out on a new mission to China. Reaching  the island of Shangchuan in August 1552, he set about making plans to travel across to the mainland, but he was subsequently taken ill and died from a fever on December 3 that same year.

Body of Saint Francis Xavier in a silver casket of Basilica of Bom Jésus in Goa. Photo by Gaius Cornelius, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He was beatified by Paul V in 1619 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622 (at the same time as fellow Basque Ignatius Loyola).  Pius XI proclaimed him the “Patron of Catholic Missions” and his feast day is December 3. His relics are kept in a silver casket, elevated inside the Bom Jesus Basilica in Goa.

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